Beverage dos & don’ts
When it comes to your well-being during pregnancy, it is exceptionally important to stay hydrated. Water is always a safe bet. however, with so much information out there, trying to make healthy choices about other beverages can be overwhelming. Here is a guide to help you select wisely.
Caffeine is found in beverages that many women drink daily: coffee, tea, sodas and even some foods such as chocolate. The average cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine, which may affect individuals differently based on personal metabolism.
Studies are limited but suggest that mild-to-moderate caffeine intake is not associated with adverse reproductive outcomes. With a caffeine intake that exceeds 300 mg/day (3 cups of coffee or 10 cups of cola), there may be an increased risk of early miscarriage. However, with a typical intake, caffeine exposure in pregnancy does not seem to be associated with congenital anomalies, growth restriction, preterm delivery, gestational diabetes or hypertension. Heavy maternal caffeine consumption can be associated with neonatal withdrawal symptoms, however. In summary: Studies are lacking overall, but modest amounts of caffeine in pregnancy appear to be relatively safe. The March of Dimes and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both support caffeine intake of less than 200 mg per day during pregnancy.
Diet Soda and Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are commonly found in diet sodas, baked goods and other food products. There is no evidence that the use of these additives causes birth defects or other pregnancy complications, and they are generally deemed to be safe in moderation in pregnancy. However, many products also contain other chemicals and additives, so it is important to focus on healthy choices.
High-quality studies that answer questions about the safety of herbal teas in pregnancy are lacking. Unlike some other food products, many herbal teas are not tested for safety or quality before being placed on the market, and the strength or purity of individual herbs in a product is not always known.
There are insufficient data to make a strong recommendation about the safety of these products, so it is recommended that you discuss consuming them with your healthcare provider.
There is no known safe level of alcohol during pregnancy, period.
Alcohol easily crosses the placenta and causes fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which include behavior problems, developmental and intellectual disability and birth defects when severe. The risk of stillbirth is also increased with alcohol intake at any level.
There has been debates about the safety of low levels of alcohol intake in pregnancy. Some studies did not show significant effects on young children, but these studies are limited and do not provide enough reassurance that even small amounts of alcohol are safe. therefore, national guidelines and medical societies recommend complete abstinence.
Margaret K. Chory, MD, is a general obstetrician/gynecologist practicing in Pittsburgh, PA.